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12 captivating images from the Sony World Photography Awards

Gorgeous landscapes and emotional portraits are just some of the elements captured by the finalist and shortlisted entries in the Sony World Photography Awards.

In its 13th year, the 2020 competition received more than 345,000 images from 203 countries and territories. The competition’s 10 categories for professionals alone received more than 135,000 entries, the highest number ever. This year also marked the debut of a new environmental category which the organizers say was introduced “in recognition of the growing importance of this topic in both fine art photography and photojournalism.”

Other categories include architecture, still life, documentary images and natural world and wildlife, like the image above. “Sunplit’ by Tobias Friedrich of Germany was taken at a coral reef in Egypt at sunset. It’s part of his “Below Surface” series that is the result of several trips to destinations around the world, mostly to shoot photos for scuba diving magazines.

Here’s a selection of more of the contest’s finalist and shortlisted images. The winners will be announced on April 16.

‘Ice Fishing Hut XIV’

'Ice Fishing Hut XIV'

‘Ice Fishing Hut XIV’ (Photo: © Sandra Herber, Canada, Finalist, Professional, Architecture,/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

Photographer Sandra Herber captured a series of ice fishing huts on Lake Winnipeg, Canada, where winters are long and bitterly cold.

“When the temperature drops many lakes and rivers in the province play host to some amazing architecture in the form of ice fishing huts. These huts, shacks or permies (as they are called in Manitoba) must be transportable, protect their occupants from the elements and allow access to the ice below for fishing,” Herber says.

“With these requirements met, the mostly male owners are free to express their personality and creativity as they wish. The huts can be large or small, decorated or plain, luxurious or utilitarian, but they are all wonderfully unique.”

‘Seeds of Resistance’

'Seeds of Resistance'

‘Seeds of Resistance’ (Photo: © Pablo Albarenga, Uruguay, Finalist, Professional, Creative/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

This photo composition by Pablo Albarenga shows Nantu, an indigenous man from the Achuar Nation of Ecuador who leads a project of solar-powered river boats for transport to end dependence on gas. On the left, Nantu lies dressed in traditional Achuar clothing. On the right, is the rainforest in Pastaza, Ecuador, home of his Sharamentsa village.

The photo is part of Albarenga’s “Seeds of Resistance” series.

“In 2017, at least 207 leaders and environmentalists were killed while protecting their communities from mining, agribusiness and other projects threatening their territories. According to a 2018 report by Global Witness, most of these cases occurred in Brazil with 57 assassinations being recorded, of which 80% were against people defending the Amazon. While the statistics expose an alarming situation, they fail to provide detailed information about the stories and people behind these figures, nor about the struggles they still face,” Albarenga says.

“Despite being immersed in such a violent situation, indigenous and traditional populations refuse to abandon their land, even when it has been completely destroyed. The reason for this stoicism lies in their unique bond to their territories – this land is their life-support system, a sacred area in which hundreds of generations of their ancestors rest. Seeds of Resistance is a project that seeks to explore the bond between the land defenders and the territories they inhabit, in a single image. By using aerial footage, the main characters in the stories are seen from above, as though they are laying down their lives for their territory. Then, a second image is shot from a much higher altitude to show their land and reveal, where possible, the threats they face.”

‘Fading Flamingos’

'Fading Flamingos'

‘Fading Flamingos’ (Photo: © Maximilian Mann, Germany, Shortlist, Professional, Environment/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

Maximilian Mann took this photo of a woman who lives near Lake Urmia in Iran.

“An environmental disaster is taking place in Lake Urmia in Iran. Just 10 years ago, waves splashed against the walls of the villages here, but now the turquoise water has been replaced by an almost endless desert. Salt, carried on the wind, covers nearby fields, causing crops to dry up. Robbed of their livelihood, the local population is fleeing to the surrounding towns, and the villages around the lake are dying out,” Mann writes.

“Lake Urmia was once the second-largest salt lake in the world, 10 times bigger than Lake Constance. However, within a few years the surface area of this body of water has shrunk by 80%. There are two main reasons for this decline: climate change and the enormously high demand for water created by the agriculture sector. If this disaster is not addressed, up to five million residents could be forced to leave the area in the future.”

Mann focuses on these residents in his series called “Fading Flamingos,” which includes the image above.

“Masoumeh lives in Daryan, about 20 kilometers from the lake. In recent years, temperatures have risen here too, while rainfall has fallen. Therefore, more and more experiments with new products have been carried out in recent years.”



‘Pangolin’ (Photo: © Brent Stirton, South Africa, Finalist, Professional, Natural World & Wildlife/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

Brent Stirton took this photo of a Temminck’s pangolin in Harare, Zimbabwe. The pangolin is learning to forage again after being rescued from traffickers on the Zimbabwe/South Africa border.

“Pangolin caregivers at this anonymous farm care for rescued, illegally trafficked pangolins, helping them to find ants and termites to eat and keeping them safe from predators and poachers. This is one of only three true pangolin rescue and rehabilitation sites in the world,” Stirton writes.

“Pangolins are the world’s most illegally trafficked mammals, with an estimated one million being trafficked to Asia in the last 10 years. Their scales are used in traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicine and their meat is sold as a high-priced delicacy. As a result, pangolins are listed as critically endangered and all trade or consumption is illegal.

“The Tikki Hywood Trust undertakes public awareness campaigns on pangolins, trains law enforcement and judiciary personnel, conducts research, and rehabilitates pangolins that have been confiscated from the illegal trade. They are based in Zimbabwe but operate with partners across Africa and Asia.”

‘The Burning’ series

Australia wildfires from 'The Burning' series

From ‘The Burning’ series (Photo: © Nicholas Moir, Australia, Shortlist, Professional, Documentary/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

Nicholas Moir’s haunting image is part of “The Burning” series that shows several of the largest and most intense fires in South East Australia.

“A lone fire truck with a wall of flame and a fire tornado when the Green Wattle fire erupted out of the bush and hit properties in Sydney south west,” Moir writes.

“A three-year drought, combined with staff cuts and political debate over the effectiveness of hazard-reduction-burn (a deliberately-lit fire intended to reduce the fuel available for a wildfire) has led to a series of catastrophic bushfires in Australia. These fires have killed 20 people, destroyed thousands of homes, and led to the deaths of hundreds of millions of native animals.”

‘Disassembl Memory’ series

'Disassembl Memory' series

‘Disassembl Memory’ series (Photo: © Fangbin Chen, China, Finalist, Professional, Still Life/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

In his still life series, Fangbin Chen photographed the disassembled parts of a childhood bicycle.

“For many people in the 1980s and ‘90s, riding a bicycle was an important part of daily life. These vehicles carried not only the burden of life, but memories too. For me, my bike was more like a companion who accompanied me throughout my childhood,” he writes.

“There was a relationship between us that taught me the joy of moving forward, but also left me with painful scars when I fell. When my bike had outlived its usefulness I decided to disassemble it and record its parts in a specimen-like manner. I wanted to freeze it forever but, more importantly, I wanted to remember my childhood memories.”

‘Cast Out of Heaven’

'Cast Out of Heaven'

‘Cast Out of Heaven’ (Photo: © Hashem Shakeri, Iran, Finalist, Professional, Discovery/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

Hashem Shakeri captured this photo of 12-year-old Dorna and Sevda, walking around the new town of Parand, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Tehran province.

“There is literally no entertainment or programs for children and adolescents here. Many of them tend to become affected by depression a while after settlement,” he writes.

Due to U.S. sanctions against Iran and the resulting drop in the value of Iranian currency, house prices have skyrocketed, forcing many residents to leave the capital and move to more affordable, newly built towns, Shakeri says.

“These are huge islands of soaring skyscrapers and indiscriminately developed apartments filled with crowds of people and cars. They begin, but seem to have no end. People from all over Iran are migrating to these new towns, which are becoming notorious for social pathologies like high rates of suicide among pupils and drug abuse. The residents of Parand talk about how the town’s population has doubled over the past six months, reaching 200,000. Yet the town can hardly provide educational, social and health care services for 10,000,” he says.

“Sleep-deprived newcomers leave early in the morning to reach their workplaces in the capital, often commuting for two to three hours a day. The relentless repetition of this cycle leads to alienation and frustration. To add to this, levels of unemployment are escalating. Here is the land of those cast out of their heaven: the metropolitan Tehran. And they all share the bitterness of the fall.”

‘Orange & Gray’

'Orange & Gray'

‘Orange & Gray’ (Photo: © Mauro Battistelli, Italy, Shortlist, Professional, Landscape/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

Mauro Battistelli’s combination of trees, Spanish moss and orange leaves are the “essence of autumn in the swamps of Texas,” he says.

“Autumn color and a layer of mist transformed a Texas swamp into a feast for the eyes during a kayaking trip in November 2019. The Spanish moss looked incredible in the early morning light, and the water and trees formed endless fascinating shapes.”

‘Hanoi Fish Man’

'Hanoi Fish Man'

‘Hanoi Fish Man’ (Photo: © Jon Enoch, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Professional, Portraiture/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

In his series “Bikes of Hanoi,” Jon Enoch photographed delivery drivers with all sorts of amazing cargo. The man above had a precariously perched collection of pet fish.

“Delivery drivers on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, use their amazing balance skills to deliver goods to shops and vendors across the city. Some riders sell directly from their bikes,” Enoch says.

“New legislation plans to ban motorbikes from the city by 2030 in a bid to improve air quality and reduce congestion. In addition to this, the country’s rapid economic expansion is leading to an increased use of vans for commercial deliveries. When I read about this, it struck me that the age-old art of riding an overloaded bike might be coming to an end. As a result, I spent a week in Hanoi, chasing down riders and convincing them to pose for the camera. Their cargoes included footballs, water, car parts, eggs, pet fish and ice.”



‘Symétrie’ (Photo: © Frédéric duhayer, France, Shortlist, Professional, Sport/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

Frédéric duhayer took this riveting shot at the skatepark in Ambert in the Puy-de-dôme in central France.

“The idea behind this project was to explore the ‘underground’ side of freestyle sport. The pictures were taken during street sessions of freestyle scootering — where riders carry out stunts and tricks in a similar fashion to skateboarding and BMX riding,” he says. “This kind of sport is ideal for developing the art of photography — for a split second both the performer and the photographer experience a moment of pure artistic freedom. I loved working on the project because I felt, and still feel, a real artistic symbiosis between the photos and the freestylers.”

‘Energy Stories’ series

'Energy Stories' series

‘Energy Stories’ series (Photo: © Marco Garofalo, Italy, Shortlist, Professional, Environment/2020 Sony World Photography Awards)

In his photography project “Energy Stories,” Marco Garofalo has worked in Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Bolivia and India, showing how the lack of energy access impacts the people who live in those areas.

“Climate change impacts are worst where there is no technology for adaptation. Energy access is a key component for adaptation strategies,” he says.

“The Bolivian village of Urus Villaneque at 3,600 meters above sea level, has been re-located from the salt lake Poopò by the central government, following changes to the water regime. The increased frequency of droughts and floods transformed life around the lake, resulting in poor fishing due to the higher salt concentration in the water. Here, Mr. Valero’s family gave up fishery in 2014. Now he has turned to agricultural activities. A small solar panel supplements the grid to pump water into his greenhouse.”

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.